Friday night’s East Bay Winternationals race for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series was 10 laps longer than Thursday’s feature, but it was the last lap that proved to be the most exciting. Ultimately, the battle for the win came down to Mason Zeigler and Kyle Bronson, with the two trading the lead on two occasions on the final lap before Zeigler beat Bronson to the line by just 0.068 seconds.
The win was the Pennsylvania driver’s second career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory, with the other one also coming at East Bay Raceway Park in 2016. Zeigler started the main event in seventh and remained around that position for most of the 50-lap race before a yellow with 10 laps remaining bunched the field up once again.
“I knew Kyle (Bronson) was going to be tough just because that cushion was still pretty good up there. Them cautions really helped me because their tires were getting a little cool and I could just work that middle really good,” Zeigler said on the MAV TV broadcast. “I knew if I could get ahead of him, clear him and take his nose going into one and two there, we could drive away. He gave me all I wanted, I didn’t expect that slider. I didn’t think he’d pull up alongside me there again and he sure as heck did. We just barely had enough room there, I did everything I could there to not door him or nothing. Like he said, it’s hardcore racing; we’re just happy to come out here and put on a show.”
It had been a tumultuous Winternationals for Zeigler before Friday night, having recorded a best finish of 10th on Thursday. After the breakthrough win on Friday, he feels his team is finally where they need to be.
“We went a little different on setup tonight and we were banking on a late caution and the track just came right to us,” he said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit all week and we finally worked the bugs out. We got started late, we didn’t get to test or anything like that but I think we’re here to stay now.”
Two nights removed from a violent wreck that forced the team to change over to their Crate car, home state driver Kyle Bronson led 40 of the 50 laps and built up a sizeable lead before the lap 40 yellow. He was forced to hold on for the last 10 laps as tire wear became a factor. While Bronson was able to hold off Brandon Sheppard, Zeigler proved to be too much as he finished in the runner-up spot for the second time this week.
“It definitely hurt me there a little bit, I had built up a little gap before that happened. I drove as hard as I could, I felt like we about put it in the fence,” Bronson said. “Mason did a damn good job, he raced me hard, he raced me clean. I wasn’t going to wreck him with how clean he raced me. I did all I could do to hold him back, he did a good job, his guys did a good job.”
Sheppard, Tyler Erb, and Jonathan Davenport rounded out the top five.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51 / Daryl Canfield